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Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' #2276679
05/15/14 08:17 PM
05/15/14 08:17 PM
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 98
London, UK
WellTemperedPizza Offline OP
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WellTemperedPizza  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2013
Posts: 98
London, UK
I just saw this quote on wikipedia:

Olivier Messiaen, writing about his Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jésus, wrote of the sixth piece of that collection, "Par Lui tout a été fait" ("By Him were all things made"):

It expresses the Creation of All Things: space, time, stars, planets - and the Countenance (or rather, the Thought) of God behind the flames and the seething - impossible even to speak of it, I have not attempted to describe it ... Instead, I have sheltered behind the form of the Fugue. Bach's Art of Fugue and the fugue from Beethoven's Opus 106 (the Hammerklavier sonata) have nothing to do with the academic fugue. Like those great models, this one is an anti-scholastic fugue.


I'm intrigued by this notion of the 'anti-scholastic fugue'. Could someone please unpack this for me? In what way can the fugues in the Art of Fugue and the Hammerklavier be described as having 'nothing to do with the academic fugue'?

Also a secondary question, somewhat related: Can anyone recommend any books/articles/academic papers that deal with how the perception of counterpoint (and in particular fugue) has developed over time? I'm fascinated by the reverence given to fugal form by many composers, as well as any extramusical associations/philosophical ideas it might inspire. I suppose if there was a music history book dealing specifically with counterpoint, that would be ideal.

Thanks in advance for any replies.

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Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2276814
05/16/14 01:10 AM
05/16/14 01:10 AM
Joined: Dec 2012
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Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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Maybe what he means by "anti-scholastic" is that Bach and Beethoven used the fugue form according to their artistic rules, rather than the implied "rules" formalized by strict study of other authors.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2276815
05/16/14 01:20 AM
05/16/14 01:20 AM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 127
Southern California
M
Michael Glenn Williams Offline
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Southern California
Messiaen won a scholastic fugue prize as a student, so he had a sense of academic fugues from his training at the Paris Cons. (he entered at 11!) So it may be an "inside joke" in a sense, the term academic fugue may be something you had to attend the conservatoire during those years to understand his context. It's hard to believe that of Bach's time, anyone without a full job in composition understood his fugues. There was no one teaching them, it was Bach who wrote the book. By Beethoven's time they had Bach as an example so to write a fugue was probably an extramusical choice on his part, but not academic, more like reverential or spiritual.


Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2276819
05/16/14 01:30 AM
05/16/14 01:30 AM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 127
Southern California
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Michael Glenn Williams Offline
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Also, check out this paper for info on Beethoven's adoration of Bach http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/1894/1/DX195498_1.pdf
Nothing academic, although Beethoven was trained in counterpoint. This reverence for Bach was not academic.

Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2276861
05/16/14 05:43 AM
05/16/14 05:43 AM
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 1,078
Leicester, UK
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Mark Polishook Offline
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Mark Polishook  Offline
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WTP,

Some context ... Glenn Gould wrote a fugue that was called "So You Want To Write A Fugue?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2JFgfc7c70&feature=kp

The general idea of it is there's "writing music that happens to be a fugue" and "writing fugues that aspire to be music." For someone like Messiaen who was a fabulous composer and a teacher as well in a conservatory he may have been and probably was sarcastically distinguishing between artistry and didacticism - which was the point of Gould's fugue.

Your question about how the perception of counterpoint has developed over time. That's addressed in counterpoint texts that include stuff about the history, aesthetics, and perception of counterpoint. These usually are written a descriptions of historical practice observed over time and after the fact.

Which is different from textbooks that show how to write counterpoint as a series of rules that shouldn't or even can't be broken.

Some books ...

"Bach and the Meaning of Counterpoint"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Meanings-Counterpoint-Perspectives-History-Criticism/dp/0521803462

which probably addresses exactly what you're asking about in terms of philosophy and extra-musical associations. The bibliography that'll come with the book likely has everything written on that particular subject (sorry, that's not a pun smile

The Study of Counterpoint by JJ Fux (in our time)

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/507840.The_Study_of_Counterpoint

is a historical text on how to write species counterpoint. It may be dry and it's definitely not contemporary and it is ancient style. It was THE classic book on counterpoint that many great composers worked from when they were learning.

Peter Schubert, a music theorist in Canada, has two great text books on writing counterpoint

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Modal-Counterpoint-Renaissance-Peter-Schubert/dp/019533194X
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Baroque-Counterpoint-Peter-Schubert/dp/0131834428

Both include a lot of historical and aesthetic perspective on how and why it was done "this way" and not "that way." For a contemporary approach to writing counterpoint based directly on historical practice and historical pedagogy these are state-of-the-art.

Another counterpoint text by Knud Jeppeson with a ton great historical background and context:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/048627036X/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_1

There's Counterpoint in Composition - ia textbook written with a particular theoretical framework - so-called Schenkerian theory. It's didactic - THE didactic book - no doubt about it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Counterpoint-Composition-Study-Voice-Leading/dp/023107039X/ref=sr_1_1

I'm in the UK and I have a lot of university-level experience teaching counterpoint and harmony and related theory, aesthetics, philosophy ... Send a PM if you want to discuss. If not, no worries!

I hope books listed above are helpful ...

Last edited by Mark Polishook; 05/16/14 06:06 AM.
Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2276862
05/16/14 05:51 AM
05/16/14 05:51 AM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 9,063
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wr Offline
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Funny - "The Art of Fugue" always seemed to me like it would be the ultimate in scholastic fugue writing, based on Bach's reputation and the apparent intent of the work. But I'm no expert in the world of fugues, so what do I know. I wonder what Messiaen meant, if he thinks the Bach isn't "scholastic"...

About books on fugue - I've got The Study of Fugue by Alfred Mann, but somehow never have got around to studying it. I just looked it up at Amazon and interestingly, it's the only book I've ever seen where all of the reviews give it 5 starts! There are only ten of them, but still...maybe I'll get serious and read it after all.


Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2277030
05/16/14 01:39 PM
05/16/14 01:39 PM
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 98
London, UK
WellTemperedPizza Offline OP
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WellTemperedPizza  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2013
Posts: 98
London, UK
Thank you all for the replies!

Michael, that paper looks very interesting, thank you for sharing it. I always appreciate getting an academic perspective on these issues.

Mark, your distinction between fugal music and musical fugues makes perfect sense. That first book you mentioned looks excellent, I'll be sure to check that out someday (with any luck when a cheap used copy goes on sale!). As for your other suggestions on textbooks, I will take you up on your kind offer and PM you.

Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2277513
05/17/14 02:46 PM
05/17/14 02:46 PM
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,194
Canada
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Kuanpiano Offline
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Posts: 2,194
Canada
If you look at the score, you'll find that Messiaen's fugue is very....much out there. He does help by telling you what he is doing, but he makes a lot of transformations to purposely make the theme difficult to recognize (even in its second occurrence, the theme is played with register changes and altered rhythm!).

Do listen to the piece however, it's really good!


Working on:
Chopin - Nocturne op. 48 no.1
Debussy - Images Book II

Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2277530
05/17/14 03:27 PM
05/17/14 03:27 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,010
canada
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johnlewisgrant Offline
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canada
I deleted my post!

Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2277683
05/17/14 11:24 PM
05/17/14 11:24 PM
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 3,439
Urbandale, Iowa
S
Steve Chandler Offline
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Urbandale, Iowa
As John has described the term is almost indefinable. You could make a case for defining a fugue as a contrapuntal piece composed around a principle theme that appears at the tonic and dominant. There may be subsidiary themes and additional techniques such as inversion, stretto and canon used.

However, I recall from way back when that there was a concept of such a thing as an academic fugue. This was something taught in music schools as a way teaching the concept of fugal writing in the late 19th century and well into the 20th century. My memory banks are digging way into the past but the concept of subject and answer was stressed as was the concept of 3 sections, exposition, development and recapitulation (sounds like sonata form). There was also a requirement for a stretto section in the development. I also seem to recall that some basic outline of a modulatory scheme was part of it. I was sure that Google would provide plenty of information about such things, and I did manage to find this:

http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/music/gjerdingen/acadfugue/collections/MastParis/index.htm

Quite obviously this page has much construction yet to be done but the one button that does work provides some very interesting information which may be relevant to this OP's inquiry since master Gedalge may have been one of Messian's teachers. Actually digging farther I found this page which describes a detailed outline of an academic fugue:

http://faculty-web.at.northwestern....ctions/MastParis/Gedalge/GedalgePlan.htm

That should about "cover" it.

Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: johnlewisgrant] #2277793
05/18/14 06:46 AM
05/18/14 06:46 AM
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Posts: 1,010
canada
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johnlewisgrant Offline
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I deleted my previous post. To say it was confusing would be an understatement.

What I meant to say was simply this: when we say "I'm going to advance a thesis about this or that" or "I'm going to offer a theory of this or that," we can mean one of two very different things. Both these things might be called "definitions", but they are very different activities.

In the first instance, you hear folks say something like, "my purpose is to offer a "definition" of what certain composers meant by a "fugue". In other words, they are providing what amounts to an account of what one or more persons meant by the word "fugue". That's a verbal definition of the word, a description of the various senses in which the word "fugue" has been used; or possibly, as well, an account of how the word ought to be used.

In the other instance, what we are trying to do is not to define the word, but to offer a theory of the thing or concept the word refers to. So, in the case of the "fugue", we are advancing a "theory" or "concept" of the fugue, something quite different from giving a verbal definition of it.

Sometimes I'm never sure which of the above very different activities a writer or researcher is up to.

So it's always a good idea to start out by saying, in effect, "Here's what certain important practitioners of fugue-writing meant by the word fugue" or, what amounts to the same thing, "Here's what distinguishes a Bach fugue from a Beethoven fugue, or a Mozart fugue, or a Handel fugue."

Then, you are in a position to say something very, very different: "Here's a NEW way of thinking about what fugue-writing actually consists of" or "Here's a NEW theory of the fugue."

Notice: now we are advancing a theory of the fugue, not just a verbal definition of it.

Re: Bach, Beethoven and the 'Anti-Scholastic Fugue' [Re: WellTemperedPizza] #2278959
05/20/14 08:07 PM
05/20/14 08:07 PM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 3,918
Chicago, IL USA
Palindrome Offline
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Sir Donald Francis Tovey comments on Fugal form in his "Principles of Interpretation" which prefaces his edition of WTC 1:

Nothing is more misguided than to try to fit Cherubini's rules for the structure of a standard fugue to a composition by Bach. Cherubini's scheme is not classical; its real origin is the sole convenience of the teacher in dealing with school essays: and his own crowning model of a Fugue, the Et Vitam from his Credo, ignores it completely."

©1924, renewed 1951 by the Associated Board of the R. A. M and the R. C. M.


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